Here’s a front-page story for you: You.
Brooklyn Paper Radio co-star Gersh Kuntzman promised a front-page story in the Brooklyn Paper for anyone who steps up and donates the remaining $50,000 to save Sunny’s Bar in Red Hook from the wrecking ball.
The legendary Daily News reporter made the offer on air on Tuesday with Sunny’s owner Tone Balzano, the widow of the Conover Street bar’s original owner, Sunny Balzano, who died last year after the arduous job of restoring the century-old watering hole from $100,000 in damage from Hurricane Sandy.
A remaining $50,000 is needed to ensure that Balzano’s widow can buy out a dozen or so relatives and own the bar and its adjoining building outright. But unless Tone Balzano can come up with the last installment by July, she’ll be forced to allow the relatives to sell the buildings.
“It would be a horrible loss for the neighborhood,” Balzano said. “But if someone would donate the money, he or she would drink for free.”
Kuntzman, speaking on behalf of co-host and Brooklyn Paper Editor Vince DiMiceli offered more: A front-page story heralding the savior of Sunny’s.
“There’s a rich guy out there and he knows who he is,” Kuntzman said. “He’s got the $50,000. So he loans it to Tone. She’ll pay him back. So it’s just letting her hold onto your money for a few years. All we need is one angel.”
For Balzano, the loss of Sunny’s would be tragic — especially on the heels of 10 months of post-Sandy repairs followed by the loss of her husband and then legal problems with her relatives. But for Brooklynites, the loss of Sunny’s would be no less tragic.
“There is an epic struggle in New York City between real and fake — and we have to stand up for the real,” said Eli Smith, who joined the show to praise Sunny’s and also to promote the ninth annual Brooklyn Folk Festival, April 28-30, at St. Ann’s Church in Brooklyn Heights.
Smith, the festival organizer, said he had played at Sunny’s many times, but also heard some great shows there. “I saw Marc Ribot just the other day,” he added.
That unleashed the memories of Sunny’s.
DiMiceli said he fell in love with the old longshoreman’s bar in the 1990s, when it was “the place we went after we went to the place we went after we went to the first place. We’d walk in and Sunny would be there. And we felt good.”
Hearing the recollections flow, former Brooklyn Paper reporter Patrick Gallahue called into the show to reminisce about his wedding 12 years ago — a low-budget affair in the Sunny’s backroom.
“First of all, it was cheap,” Gallahue said. “But more important, the late 1990s was a golden era for Red Hook bars — and Sunny’s was the best. New York has lost too many of its cultural icons. We can’t let Sunny’s die.”
For his part, Kuntzman spoke lovingly about Wednesday nights, when Smokey Hormel and his band fills the dance floor.
“I had the worst date of my life about six months ago in Red Hook and I figured we’d redeem it by going to Sunny’s,” Kuntzman said. “But this woman was just the worst — and she bolted in a cab. I spent the rest of the night dancing with the midwives.”
Balzano knew the group in question — Wednesday night regulars — and said they’re typical of Sunny’s believers.
“Living is such a damn hard thing to do,” she said. “How many places let you take out your baggage and think about it and dream about it with other people? Do you do that at Starbucks?”
Saving Sunny’s, she added, “has been like a marathon or a video game where things keep coming at you.”
Like Frogger, Kuntzman asked.
“No,” said DiMiceli. “More like Pac-Man.”
In any event, the angel investor is out there, the front page of The Brooklyn Paper is waiting and the contribution form on http://www.sunnysforever.com is ready to serve.
Sunny’s Bar, 253 Conover St. between Beard and Reed sts. In Red Hook, (718) 625-8211. Art sale fundraiser, May 1. All info at www.sunny
Brooklyn Paper radio is recorded and podcast live every Tuesday at 10:45 am — against Brain Lehrer! — from our studio in America’s Downtown and can be found, as always, right here on Brook